The concept of promession was developed as an environmentally friendly method of burial by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, who derived the name from the Italian word for "promise" (promessa). She founded Promessa Organic AB in 1997 to exploit her idea.
Promession involves five steps:
- The body is frozen by immersion in liquid nitrogen, which makes it brittle.
- The frozen remains are shattered by vibration.
- The remains are then subjected to a vacuum so that the ice sublimes and the powder becomes dry, and weighs 50% to 70% less than the original body.
- Any metals (e.g., tooth amalgam, artificial hips, etc.) are removed, either by magnetism or by sieving.
- The dry powder is placed in a biodegradable casket which is interred in the top layers of soil, where aerobic bacteria decompose the remains into humus in as little as 12 months.
From 2004, trials have been performed on pigs, and AGA Gas developed a proof-of-concept. However a third party is needed to enter into an agreement with Promessa to order the equipment needed for promession of human cadavers.
Some independent attempts to reproduce Promessa's early results have so far been unsuccessful, which the original innovators claim is dues to a lack of skills in cryogenic freezing and vibration technology.
The BBC has shown a proof of concept to work with relatively simple means.
Wiigh-Mäsak had received expressions of interest from more than 60 countries, including Vietnam, the United Kingdom, South Africa, the Netherlands, Canada, and the United States. In South Korea, the technology was expressly legalized.
- Holst, Karen (13 April 2011). "Swedish green-burial firm to turn frozen corpses in compost". Retrieved 26 September 2012.
- McNally, Patrick (30 September 2008). "Promession: A Return to the Living Soil". Daily Undertaker. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
- Stansfield, Jem (16 April 2013). "Bang Goes The Theory". Retrieved 8 May 2013.
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